Does True Love Have to Hurt?

By Talent Courage

My friends often describe me as an affable and kind-hearted, always willing to help those in need. They also call me a hopeless romantic at heart, and they’re right. I always dreamed of finding the perfect partner, to fill my life with love and happiness. However, my pursuit became a tumultuous one at best, following some major disappointments.

When I was a teenager, I met a girl at Leo convention, where all Leos from Zimbabwe gather for team building exercise and charity. We were paired together in a 30 second quiz. We absolutely nailed it, finishing first. We won because of her quick wit. The victory was even sweeter since we were the youngest pair.

Her name was Martha. She was a light skinned beauty and when I first saw her smile, I fell in love right away. Her doorbell must have been constantly ringing with delivery ‘men’, bringing gifts. On our first date, I got matching t-shirts that say HIS and HERS. I was a budding guitarist at that time and the first song I mastered was Perfect by Ed Sheeran, a song I dedicated to my ‘amour de ma vie’.

Martha was God-sent. She’d engrave my initials on her artificial nails: TC it read, and I found it very romantic. Our love for fast-food was another bonding point. We went to the Chicken Inn every week. One of the attendants, Angela, knew us by name, and I swear she gave us extra fries every time she served us. Martha bought me a guitar for my birthday. It was the greatest gift anyone ever got for me.

We had been planning a trip to Victoria Falls for after we graduated from high school. When our Advanced Level results came out, we told our parents that we were going to look for opportunities abroad. When we boarded an overnight bus I felt the excitement bubbling within me. We had been planning this for so long, and now, at last, we were on our way. The hum of the engine and the soft rumble of the road beneath was soothing, as we cuddled together on our seats. The gentle sway lulled us into a deep slumber, and before we knew it, morning had arrived

The bus pulled into a small terminal. We stepped off, greeted by a refreshing breeze. Our first stop was the vibrant local market, brimming with colorful textiles and intricate wood carvings. Martha’s eyes lit up as she browsed through racks of brightly patterned fabrics, her fingers tracing the delicate stitches. We couldn’t resist purchasing a few beautiful pieces to take home to remind us of our trip together.

After that, we made our way towards the falls. The sound of rushing water grew louder with each step, until we were greeted by the mighty Victoria Falls. The sheer power and majesty of the cascading water took our breath away. We took as many snapshots and videos to treasure these memories. Unfortunately, we couldn’t post them on social media as it would blow our cover, but we agreed that one day we will just come out and share this amazing experience.

As the day drew to a close, we found a secluded restaurant overlooking the falls. A table for two had been set, with flickering candles and delicate flowers. I ordered lamb chop in mushroom soup and fries, and a glass of apple juice. She ordered some feta fries, with a bowl of Portuguese salad and ribs with a glass of white wine.

When we returned home, disaster struck. I was an Arts major wanting to pursue theatre and music at the Midlands State University. Martha, on the other hand, wanted to go to the capital to study Radiography at the University of Zimbabwe.

We were used to spending almost every moment together, so the distance started taking a toll on our relationship soon. I was determined to make the relationship work. I called her every morning to wish her well for the day and we video-called before going to bed. I also planned a weekend or two every month to visit her. She promised to do the same.

Martha didn’t have the same energy as I. She grew distant, video calls were becoming shorter and shorter, excuses more pronounced. “Tee,” she said, “you need to understand I’m too tired for these calls, and you know I was never a big fan of video calling anyway babe.”

I was speechless, we used to call for hours, then I just said okay, and hung up.

The next day she said that her studies were much more arduous than mine. Unlike me, she said, she had no time on her hands. My heart bled. It was categorically not true. All I could say that was that I was putting in the work of trying to keep the fire burning, and she didn’t. I questioned myself at every turn, wondering if she was seeing someone else. All these stories on couples falling apart due to distance began to make sense. The big problem was that I had been naive. I thought my precious jewel was still settling, and that she’d come around. If only I knew.

Then came that dreaded text: “I don’t think I can do this anymore…” I was devastated. I didn’t know how to find closure, so I just took my loss and tried to stay strong.

To be honest, I don’t think I ever recovered from that loss. I never had another romantic relationship again. I kept my emotions inside and didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable, or try to make relationships work. I felt I couldn’t love somebody as much as I had loved Martha. I met many new people, but I felt it would be unfair to not give a potential partner the love they deserve.

On the dark days when I missed her deeply, I would sit down in a quiet lonely place, on the campus and play this big tune on the guitar! Yes, the one Martha gave me, as I hum the chorus and think back on our time together, and all the plans we made.

Does true love have to hurt? Maybe. Not a single day passes without Martha crossing my mind, with Adele’s ‘Someone like you’ playing in the background.

24 August, 2023